The Wizards will probably choose center Sekou Doumbouya of France in Thursday’s NBA draft. It would be a sensible selection with the No. 9 overall choice.
But the days of fired general manager Ernie Grunfeld taking European projects are over, and the Wizards need to make a bold move. Washington could offer Bradley Beal and its first-rounder for New Orleans’ fourth overall selection, but there are only three impact players in this year’s draft so that would be drastically overpaying.
The Wizards also need a second-round contributor. The best path for them to improve is to trade down to the late teens or low 20s and try to acquire another pick. Washington could then pick Maryland center Bruno Fernando in the first round to fill its inside need and find a forward in the second.
Maybe the Wizards would miss out on a franchise-maker by trading down for two potentially good players, but when was the last time Washington found a star player outside the top few overall picks?
It’s unfair to prejudge interim general manager Tommy Sheppard’s drafting ability given it’s his first chance since Grunfeld’s departure. And even though he’s not the permanent decision-maker, it still should be up to Sheppard to make the pick.
Working a trade could be the best chance for him to impress Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. Why not take a local player who will sell tickets and fill a need? Fernando is not the top big man on the board, but he proved to be a relentless competitor with the Terrapins. Most likely, his best basketball is still to come.
If the Wizards move down and Fernando is gone when they get to pick, Plan B could be Bol Bol. The son of the late Washington center Manute Bol, whose stunning 7-foot-7, 200-pound frame made him more of a novelty, is a more polished player than his father. The 7-2, 210-pounder can run the floor and hit outside shots. The biggest risk in selecting Bol Bol is that the Oregon center appears to be injury-prone. Still, Wizards fans would be interested in watching a second-generation Bol — and comparing him to his father.
UCLA small forward Kris Wilkes would be a solid second-round selection. A good defensive player who needs to improve his outside shot, Wilkes does the dirty work and the Wizards could use someone like that. After all, somebody has to heed coach Scott Brooks’ pleas to play defense.
It will be interesting to see if Sheppard makes the simple choice of Doumbouya or tries to impress the Wizards or future employers with some on-the-clock deal-making on draft night. Either way, Washington badly needs somebody who can elevate it back to respectability.
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